LOAN PAYMENTS are now being issued under the Less Favoured Area Support Loan Scheme.

The first tranche of the advance payments will see more than 7500 eligible hill farmers and crofters receive loans of up to 95% of their 2019 payment – up 5% on the 90% advance offered last year.

With more than £38 million of loan payments now underway, a further 2500 eligible hill farmers and crofters have been advised that they can still receive payment under this mechanism if they choose to accept the offer, as further payment runs will continue in the coming weeks.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “I have continually said that we should support those who need it the most. With the first tranche of Less Favoured Area Support Scheme loan payments investing more than £38 million into some of our more remote and marginalised areas – and with more to follow – I believe we are doing just that.

“Our rural economy is on the front line of the potential impacts of Brexit, with remote and rural areas likely to be hit the hardest. With 75% of eligible hill farmers and crofters having accepted a loan offer, I am pleased that we are able to offer a degree of clarity and certainty through these payments.”

The 2019 LFASS loan scheme was announced in December 2019. The advances now being paid will be automatically deducted from the official LFASS payment when it is fully processed, and claimants will receive the balance payment, which is anticipated to start in April.

Overall, the 2019 LFASS payment will be 80% of the 2018 rate, due to EU rules requiring the scheme to be wound down. The question over what Scottish or UK scheme might replace it post-Brexit – and which budget it will funded from – is high on the agenda for the hill livestock sector.